IRA team jailed for gasworks bombing: Officers believed blast in Warrington shopping street three weeks after the arrests was reprisal for the police success

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The Independent Online
TWO members of an IRA team who bombed a gasworks in Warrington, Cheshire, and attempted to murder a policeman during their escape were yesterday sentenced to long jail terms at the end of a five-week trial at the Old Bailey.

Pairic MacFhloinn, 40, and Denis Kinsella, 25, were jailed for 35 years and 25 years respectively for their part in the bombing mission which had caused serious risk to the lives of those near the site.

A third man, John Kinsella, 49, Denis Kinsella's uncle, was sentenced to 20 years' imprisonment for possessing Semtex explosives which he had buried on his allotment for the IRA cell.

Despite the heavy sentences received by the men, they smiled and waved to relatives in the public gallery as they were led away. The jury had taken almost 11 hours to reach their verdicts.

MacFhloinn, imprisoned for IRA membership in Ireland in 1975, was sentenced to 35 years for causing the explosions in February last year, 20 years for attempting to murder Constable Mark Toker, 10 years for kidnapping a motorist, Lee Wright, and 12 years for possession of a firearm, all to run concurrently. Denis Kinsella, from Nottingham, was also convicted on the same charges and sentenced to 25 years, 15 years, 10 years and 12 years, to run concurrently.

Senior officers believed that the bomb planted in a shopping street in Warrington three weeks after the arrests, killing Tim Parry, 12, and Johnathan Ball, 3, was a reprisal for the police success after the gasworks blast.

Denis Kinsella, an unemployed roofer, had driven MacFhloinn and another man, Michael Timmins, who was never caught, to the Longford gasworks late on 25 February in his battered Mazda van, the court was told.

MacFhloinn and Timmins had planted three bombs and three incendiary devices which were set to go off at a time when the gas holders were almost full. However, only one of the gas holders went up in the explosions, sending a huge ball of flame into the air, and causing pounds 1m of damage, though there was no injury or loss of life.

In their efforts to escape, MacFhloinn shot PC Toker three times at point-blank range when he stopped and questioned the three men as they drove away. Mr Justice McCullough, sentencing the men, told MacFhloinn that the way the bombs were positioned indicated that he intended to cause 'the maximum effect possible with the materials available' and risked the lives of those who lived on a housing estate near by.

'I am satisfied that danger to life was likely: to the firemen called to the scene, the users of the main road and to the lives of those asleep in their houses,' he said.

'Their lives and safety were at risk from fire, from the escape of gas which you intended. Had one or more of the high-pressure tanks exploded, the effects would have been far reaching in extent and severity both to persons and property.

'The evidence is sufficient to make me sure that you were willing to run the risk that people would be killed or injured. Your attempt to murder PC Toker shows the relative importance you attach to the lives of others.'

In passing sentence on Denis Kinsella, the judge acknowledged that he may have been pressured to take part by his family, but was certain he was not as helpless as he sought to portray himself.

'Your response when stopped by the police shows just how cool you could be in what was a very tricky situation for you and your passengers. There was a real risk that one of your passengers would shoot, and not just shoot but shoot to kill.'

Finally, the judge told John Kinsella, a father of four, that he had taken charge of enough explosives for another bombing mission that could be 'used in future in a way which would endanger life'.

PC Toker, asked later whether he believed MacFhloinn's assurances that he had not intended to kill him, said: 'If someone is pointing a gun at you they are out to kill you. I felt nothing but fear as I turned around and ran away, but fell to the ground. They deserved the sentences as far as I'm concerned.'